Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series: Job Seeker obstacles in the hiring system—and how they can overcome them

by Susan Mullin

Part 3 of our interview with Jennifer Tardy, Career Success Coach and Certified Diversity Executive and Practitioner

Jennifer Tardy headshot, expert on job seeker obstacles

TorchLight’s Stephanie Ranno recently sat down with Jennifer Tardy, Career Coach and Certified Diversity Executive and Practitioner, to discuss job seeker obstacles in the hiring system—and how they can identify and overcome them.

On the job seeker front, how do these obstacles impact people from underrepresented groups applying and interviewing for positions?

Jennifer:  It’s a two-fold effect. This obstacle course affects how others perceive you and it can often affect how you perceive yourself.

If you are from a historically underrepresented group with a long history and legacy of discrimination, disenfranchisement, and oppression, you sometimes have to  actively work against stereotypes and images in order to see your own self clearly. It is also likely that hiring professionals are working to counter stereotypes and images impressed upon them to assess the qualifications of the candidate free of bias. It is a deep impact.

How would a job seeker know if they are experiencing this hidden obstacle course?

Jennifer:  Job seekers can make assumptions, but it is likely that they won’t ever really know with certainty if they are in the midst of the obstacle course. This is especially true if a job seeker is unsure of what a bias-free hiring process should look like. With that disclaimer in mind, here are a few signs to be aware of:

Sign #1

Are the questions you are being asked during the interview all related to the qualifications necessary to perform the role—as outlined in the job description? Or are the questions related to things that have nothing to do with your knowledge, skills, and experience and no bearing on your ability to be effective in the role?

Sign #2

Does your interviewer mention a company philosophy to hire the “best fit” for the role? If so, what happens when you are interviewing at a highly homogenous organization?

If you present differently from the current employees—how would you fit? Rather, look for companies that stress culture add over culture fit. Being different from those in the company gives you the opportunity to add something new versus fit into what’s already there.

Sign #3

The obstacle course is not just present in the hiring process for job seekers. If you are currently working for an employer and continue to get overlooked for promotional opportunities, this can be a sign. This is especially true if the only feedback you receive is that you are “not quite ready” with no clear understanding of what would make you “quite ready” or a plan to help you develop and get ready. 

So, what are some ways candidates can better train and navigate the obstacle course if they find themselves stuck?

Jennifer:  There are things job seekers and employees can do when they experience the obstacle course. Here are three tips that I share with clients:

Tip #1

Learn some unwritten rules for interviewing success, especially rules geared toward historically underrepresented job seekers. As a matter of fact, you can download a free copy of one of our most popular guides for job seekers called, Career Advice for Underrepresented Populations.

Tip #2

Work with a career coach, or someone who can help you to navigate your job search. In addition, make sure that your career coach has a level of cultural competence and understands common barriers that individuals who identify similarly to you face while trying to gain access to top opportunities.

Tip #3

If you work for an employer and are trying to get a promotion but believe you are facing the hidden obstacle course, find a mentor or sponsor who can share the unwritten rules to success at your company with you. All companies have unwritten rules to success. The sooner you can learn these rules or the career success playbook, the sooner you can decide if you are willing to play the game.

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us, Jennifer. Your advice gives us all a lot to think about with the regard to the experience of job seekers from historically underrepresented populations and how we can all work to make the hiring system fairer and more unbiased.

Read part 1 of Stephanie and Jennifer’s interview: “The hiring system and it’s hidden obstacle course.”

Read part 2: “Identifying obstacles within your hiring system—and how to address them.”

Visit jennifertardy.com for free resources for jobseekers.

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Posted in , Diversity, Equity and Inclusion